Ongoing and concluded PhDs

PhD researcher or student information

Vasiliki Apatzidou

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Discipline: Law

Degrees BA: Law


International and European Law

International Relations: International Humanitarian Action

PhD Research Information

The Status and Rights of Third-Country Nationals applying for Asylum at the EU’s Borders

Brief description:

Τhe thesis aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the asylum procedures that are taking place at the borders of the EU Member States and examine the impact that these procedures have on the rights of those seeking international protection. The research is placed in the broader field of EU asylum law and focuses on border procedures as this is an understudied field of the Common European Asylum System albeit the impact of these procedures on the fundamental rights of asylum-seekers and the rule of law.

This thesis aims to bring together the critical border theories of ‘shifting borders’ and the ‘state of exception’ which explain how the sovereign state may decide to move the border into the interior and deprive aliens applying for asylum at the border areas of the traditional protections enjoyed by asylum-seekers who have actually made it into the interior. The state can decide to treat persons physically present in the territory of the EU Member States as ‘not-entered’. The ‘non-entry’ fiction is a legal fiction that is commonly used in the migration and asylum field to justify the exclusion of asylum-seekers applying for asylum at the borders from the human rights protection and the legal framework applicable to those applying for asylum in other locations in the mainland.

The ‘Europeanisation’ of the ‘non-entry’ fiction comes with the establishment and regulation of asylum border procedures (article 43 recast Asylum Procedures Directive). In the EU asylum legislation, there is not a commonly agreed definition of what constitutes a border procedure. Cornelisse defines border procedure as ‘a procedure in which the applicant for international protection is not granted entry to national territory during the time that the authorities examine his or her application’. As she further notes, the denial of entry is a legal fiction, as in reality, persons whose applications for asylum are examined in a border procedure are present on the territory of the state where their asylum application is lodged. Thus, it is obvious that a different legal regime is applicable to asylum-seekers applying for asylum at the borders, from those that have effected entry in the country and apply for asylum in the mainland, after crossing the border. The first category of asylum-seekers is subject to the ‘non-entry’ fiction as their entry is considered unauthorised albeit they are present in the state’s territory, while the second category of asylum-seekers, who are not apprehended at the borders, is not subject to the ‘non-entry’ fiction. In this case, the EU legislation allows the creation of a ‘lighter’ legal order at the borders where the presence of a third-country national in the territory does not suffice to ensure access to rights and guarantees related to presence on the territory.

The proposed research is particularly important and topical as the amended proposal for an Asylum Procedures Regulation and the Screening Regulation that were presented as part of the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum in September 2020, establish a ‘pre-entry’ phase which will be compulsory for the EU Member States and where one can easily notice an extensive use of border procedures. During this ‘pre-entry’ phase, the third-country nationals will be treated as ‘not-entered’ in the territory, despite the fact that in reality they will be present in the state’s territory. Thus, the ‘non-entry’ fiction will be applicable through the entire ‘pre-entry’ phase and the persons will be conceived as not admitted in the territory

The research question that the research addresses is:

How are the fundamental rights of third-country nationals applying for asylum at the borders protected in procedures that are premised on the ‘non-entry’ fiction such as on border procedures?

Thus, the research aims further to focus on:

What is the impact of the ‘non-entry’ fiction at the EU’s borders on fundamental rights and refugee protection?
If the fundamental rights framework actually fits in border procedures?


The methodology that will be followed for this dissertation will be primarily doctrinal combined with literature review. This means that it will be critically approaching legal instruments, EU Legislation, the Case-Law of national, European and International courts and the legal scholarship. Moreover, it will look to other sources of optional or ‘soft’ law, and recently published studies by EU institutions and civil society actors to examine whether these documents can complement the findings of the research. It will further elaborate an empirical approach of the relevant state practice through an in-depth research at country level. For this reason, qualitative research will be developed through research visits to Greece, as it is a country where border procedures are implemented since 2016, and I can have access to the necessary documents and procedures. Also, the case of Greece is of a particular interest due to the different procedures that are taking place at the borders, though the information in the current literature is rather fragmented. The aim of the research visits will be to a. Conduct semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders working at the borders and b. The observation of the border procedures in the field at the Greek borders.

Keywords: Asylum Procedures, Asylum Procedures directive, borders, eu law, Human Rights

Language(s) of writing: English

Country: UK

Home University:

Queen Mary University of London



Supervisor: Dr Niovi Vavoula
Start date: 03-09-2021
PhD current status: PhD Ongoing
PhD research funded by:
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Added to catalogue on: 16-06-2022

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